Three Bridges 0-2 Ramsgate - Sometimes it's not about being vintage, it's about getting through and we found a way to win, says Ramsgate boss Ben Smith

Tuesday 23rd January 2024
Three Bridges 0 – 2 Ramsgate
Location Jubilee Walk, Three Bridges, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 1LQ
Kickoff 23/01/2024 19:45

Isthmian League South East Division
Tuesday 23 January 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Jubilee Walk

RAMSGATE manager Ben Smith says there will be plenty of twists and turns in this Isthmian League South East Division title race.


The Rams remain 11 points clear at the top of the table after grinding out a 2-0 win on a wet and windy night in Crawley, courtesy of two goals from corners.

Talisman striker Joe Taylor headed in his 36th goal of the season, before centre-half Craig Stone notched his fourth goal for the club since his switch from Isthmian League Premier Division side Hastings United.

Jamie Crellin’s Three Bridges were top of the table when the original fixture was postponed on Saturday 9 December.  Seven days later they beat East Grinstead Town 4-2 here, before a trio of 3-2 defeats to Merstham, Burgess Hill Town and Ashford United folllowed and as a result they have slipped down to seventh-place in the table, with 34 points from 20 games after this game.

Ramsgate, meanwhile, lost only their second league game of the season, 4-2 at now third-placed side Lancing on 6 January, but have recovered to beat East Grinstead Town (5-0), Burgess Hill Town (4-2), and seven days ago they bounced back from being 2-0 down to beat Ashford United 3-2.

“Grit, determination, character, it was all in abundance tonight. It (the weather) was horrible wasn’t it tonight, so a great three points,” said Smith, who hopes Tijan Jadama will be fit on Saturday, as he comes back from a knee injury.

“We were, I’m not going to say walking wounded, but we’ve got some injuries, which every club has got to go through.

“You’ve got to come to these places and win.  I thought second half we were much better than the first half actually, surprisingly.

“I thought apart from some breaks at the end, we didn’t really look in too much danger, which you expect.  That wind was so bad, so yes, all in all, a great night for the football club.”

Three Bridges and Ramsgate treated the ball like a hot potato during the early exchanges of this game at Jubilee Walk.

Smith said: “Both teams were trying to get used to it (the windy conditions).  You think going with the wind will help you. It didn’t really help us.  I don’t know. It just made us force it a little bit more than we wanted.  I thought we forced some nice chances in the second half by playing football, not using the wind.

“It was really tough, for both sides, it probably didn’t look a great spectacle from the sideline but I think credit to both sides, both sides did try to play in that. 

“Sometimes it’s not about being vintage. It’s about getting through and we found a way to win,” added Smith.

Three Bridges hit Ramsgate on the counter-attack and called visiting goalkeeper Tom Halder into making a comfortable save with 10 minutes and 45 seconds on the clock.

Michael West’s drilled ball forward was blocked by Three Bridges’ holding midfielder Harvey Woollard in the Three Bridges half before pacey left-winger Ibrahaim Jalloh broke through the heart of the pitch from the half-way line into the Ramsgate box before his right-footed angled drive from 15-yards was comfortably held by Hadler, diving low to his right.

“They looked a threat.  He’s a good player Jalloh.  We know when you play that side, that if they get out and they get out in the wide areas, they’re a danger, so that was an early warning, wasn’t it,” said Smith.

Ramsgate’s best chances of scoring during the first half came from corners, as Three Bridges’ recalled goalkeeper Leo Anderson had to be alert to push away Alfie Paxman’s wind-assisted teasing delivery from the right, as Ramsgate dominated the corner-count by 8-1.

Three Bridges missed a glorious chance to take a deserved lead in the 22nd minute through 20-goal striker Noel Leighton, who had just received treatment on the half-way-line.

Set-piece specialist Brannon O’Neill fed the ball into Jalloh’s whose reserve pass released striker Kevin Rivera charging down the left and he put it on a plate for an unmarked Leighton at the far post but the former Margate striker stabbed his right-footed half-volley past the right-hand post from inside the six-yard box.

“You say he should’ve scored but he’s reaching. In these conditions everything’s difficult because it skips off the surface.  I don’t think it was a gilt-edged as it looked for their player.  I think it was harder than it looked,” admitted Smith.

“Noel Leighton didn’t really look like a goal threat tonight, I don’t think.  I thought he was just a handful, caused all sorts of problems.

“I’ve seen him for Margate a few years’ back.  I tried to sign him for Herne Bay. He’s a good player. I don’t think he’s ever scored the goals that he probably should.  This year he’s obviously scoring well. It’s no shock to me. I think he’s one of the best in the league.”

Jalloh was a threat down the left (often linking up well with left-back Ridwan Euba) and his electrifying cutting run from the left into the centre saw him reach the edge of the D before his right-footed drive was held by Hadler, low to his left, for another comfortable save.

Three Bridges were the better side up until this point before Smith insisted his side should have had a 34th minute penalty.

Right-winger Alfie Paxman’s through ball was dummied by Taylor and Jack S Paxman (number 16 shirt) latched onto the ball and was taken out by the advancing goalkeeper Anderson.  The Ramsgate midfielder poked the ball towards the bottom right-hand corner, but the ball was cleared off the line by Nabeel Ghannam.

“It’s a stonewall penalty! He’s booted him and then he’s reaching and he gets a poke on it to go around the keeper.  He’s come straight through him.  It’s mental, absolutely crazy how that’s not a penalty.  He should score, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a stonewall penalty. It’s bizarre it wasn’t given,” fumed Smith.

However, Ramsgate grabbed the lead, following their fifth corner of the night, with 38 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

Alfie Paxman swung in a left-footed corner from the right which was knocked back across goal by the unmarked Stone, the ball sailed towards the far post and over the flapping keeper and Taylor headed the ball into the top right-hand corner from a couple of yards out.

“We put a couple of good balls in there using the wind.  Alfie and Westy put in some great deliveries on that keeper and pretty much on the goal line.  A couple just went over, one hit the bar and went over.  I thought we looked a threat from set-pieces, so long may that continue,” said Smith.

Ramsgate’s second goal was flattering at the time, when it arrived in similar fashion with 41:53 on the clock.

This time, central midfielder Michael West floated in a left-wing corner towards the back post and Stone’s initial header was kept out by Anderson before Stone stabbed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner at the second attempt.

“Another goal from Stoney. He sent me a video a couple of days before this with a goal he scored here before for Hastings, so he’s scored a few, so he’s on a bit of a roll,” said Smith.

“I thought he marshalled the back line exceptionally well tonight.  Concentration out there needed to be spot on tonight. He showed what a good signing he is and all those leadership qualities came out.”

Smith was then asked about his half-time thoughts.

“Don’t think the job’s done. We’ve turned around two goal deficits in the last two games, so let’s not have any trend setting there.

“What you do without the ball is more important what you do with it in this (second) half.  We had to tighten up on that Jalloh, he’s their main guy and I thought we did that really well.”

Three Bridges created the first opening of the second half, when O’Neill swung in a left-footed free-kick from the right, which was flicked on by an unmarked Ghannam at the near post and was comfortably gathered by Hadler in his midriff.

Woollard’s first time ball was cleared away by Ramsgate centre-half Daniel Johnson before Three Bridges’ winger Kevin Rivera fed Ghannam and his right-footed angled drive flashed across Hadler and past the far post from 18-yards in the 55th minute.

O’Neill whipped in an excellent cross from the left towards the back post but Leighton steered his free header past the near-post.

“I thought we did well to get up.  We weren’t a sitting duck because playing against the wind there you can get penned in.  I didn’t think we got penned in really.  They didn’t have five or six waves of attacks,” added Smith.

“I thought we did a professional job in the second half. I didn’t feel under threat.  I thought we would be under threat in that second half.”

Crellin made just the one change, replacing Euba for central midfielder Bryan Villavicencio, as Woollard slotted in at left-back, while Smith had the luxury of bringing on the likes of Lee Martin, Jordan Green and Medy Elitio inside the final eight minutes.

Ramsgate were to be denied a third goal in the 29th minute of the second half.

West’s right-footed free-kick was cleared away before holding midfielder Bode Anidugbe and Jack S Paxman (16) linked up on the edge of the Three Bridges penalty area to tee up Jack A Paxman (8), who drilled a right-footed shot towards goal from 25-yards.  The ball deflected off centre-half Billy Irving on the 18-yard line and Anderson made a great save, getting down low to his left and using a strong hand to push the ball towards safety.

“I wasn’t happy with Jack in the first half,” revealed Smith.

“I thought he needed to be better on the ball and I thought second half he was really good.  Good conviction there, a good strike. I thought it was a great save from the keeper.  That wicked deflection, they don’t’ seem to sneak in for us but there you go.”

The home side kept plugging away as Rivera released Jalloh (who had a very quiet second half), and the winger cut in from the left wing before Rivera laid the ball off to winger Ghannam, who took a couple of touches inside the Ramsgate box before drilling his right-footed shot over the bar, trying to aim for the top right-hand corner.

Taylor’s sublime dinked finish in the final six minutes would have been up there as goal of the season – but assistant referee Thomas Price raised his offside flag.

Green slid in to press Three Bridges centre-half Tressor Difika in the home side’s defensive third and nicked the ball off him before Jack S Paxman (16) played the ball to Taylor, who dinked a sublime first time shot into the empty net from 18-yards.

“I mean, that’s the combination you want to see.  Paxman, a little slide ball, Joe Taylor, first-time finish, dink, incredible goal. Marginally offside. I thought it was close but in good conditions, that’s dangerous isn’t it,” added Smith.

Reflecting on the performance of recent recruit, Jack S Paxman (shirt number 16), Smith said: “It’s hard because he had three games out didn’t he.  He came in, played two games, second game he looked real quality, obviously gets an injury.  I thought he was our man-of-the-match tonight. I thought he was excellent. His ball manipulation on that pitch, in these conditions, the amount of fouls he brought. Their players couldn’t get the ball off him.  I thought he was outstanding.”

When asked about Green’s eight-minute cameo as the winger battles back from a hamstring problem, Smith replied: “It’s good to get Jordan 10 minutes at the end, so that’s a big boost that he’s got through 10 minutes. He’s done the warm-up. He’s had a hamstring problem, so he’s come through that unscathed.

“You think to yourself you don’t want to put him out in those conditions, it’s heavy but it was a good test for him and it’s good that he’s come through that.”

Hadler – the busier of the two goalkeepers – maintained his clean-sheet inside the final five minutes.

West had his pocket picked on the half-way line on the right and Rivera broke straight down the heart of the pitch before releasing Jalloh, who was crowded out and Hadler made a vital block with his legs.

Smith said: “I thought we did well to smother that defensively.  I thought we got bodies around the ball really quickly.  There were a couple of times where they broke like that. We smothered the ball and just made it difficult, made it hard for them. 

“If they had scored, they’d had to work hard for it. I don’t think they had simple chances, so really pleased to see that out.”

O’Neill went close with a whipped left-footed free-kick from just outside the corner of the Ramsgate penalty area, which curled just past the bottom of the far post (47:17).

Crellin’s side have now suffered back-to-back home league defeats for the first time this season, as Jubilee Walk is a tough place to go to and pick up three points as the away side.

“Massive! I said to the players before the game, it’s a night when it’s all about how well you do off the ball,” said Smith.

“Let’s give credit to Three Bridges, they are a good side.  I know we’re expected to come here and win but it’s easier said than done.  I doubt they lose too many games here (they have lost twice), there you go, so they’re no mugs.

“Just because you’ve got names on paper doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and perform out there.  We’ve seen that at other clubs this year. It’s not happened.

“I think these boys work hard for each other. It’s great to have the lads back tonight, that’s a massive boost for us.  You look at that bench, it’s a great bench. A good five-a-side team sitting there.”

Meanwhile, Steve McKimm’s Cray Valley made it nine away league wins out of nine with a 3-0 win at eighth-placed Chichester City tonight.

Ramsgate have picked up 58 points (19 wins, one draw, and two defeats) from their 22 games, while the play-off places contain Cray Valley (47 points from 19 games), Lancing (41 points from 22 games), Sittingbourne (39 points from 20 games) and Herne Bay (37 points from 22 games).

Ernie Batten’s Sheppey United are in sixth-place in the table (36 points from 23 games) and travel to Ramsgate on Saturday.

Smith said: “We’re in it for the long haul.  Sixteen games to go. It’s going to be really tight. We’ll keep plugging away.  We’ve got a tough old game against Sheppey on Saturday. We’ve got to now re-group, re-focus, re-energise and go again. It’s relentless this.

“We’ve had some bumps in the road, not many.  Again, my job is to get promotion. I’ve made no secret. We want to get promoted, that’s what we’re all here for.

“But there’s some good sides in this league and it’s a hard league to get out off, so there’s going to be many twists and turns before the end of the season.

“We’ve just got to keep tunnel vision. It’s on the next game, it’s on the next game, not worry about what Cray Valley do.  In my eyes Cray will win those games in hand, so it’s two points, they’re not letting up.

“Don’t count your chickens, there’s still a long way to go yet.”

Three Bridges: Leo Anderson, Dan Ferreria, Ridwan Euba (Bryan Villavicencio 63), Harvey Woollard, Tressor Difika, Billy Irving, Ibrahim Jelloh, Brannon O’Neill, Noel Leighton, Kevin Rivera, Nabeel Ghannam.
Subs: Elliot Hanslow, Sean Agun, Naythan Bryson, Callum Donaghey

Ramsgate: Tom Hadler, Jack A Paxman, Jack Parter, Bode Anidugbe (Lee Martin 80), Craig Stone, Daniel Johnson, Alfie Paxman, Jack S Paxman, Joe Taylor, Michael West (Medy Elito 87), Benedict Bioletti (Jordan Green 82).
Subs: Sinn’Kaye Christie, Archie Simmons

Goals: Joe Taylor 39, Craig Stone 42

Booked: Tom Hadler 90

Attendance: 139
Referee: Mr Will Briers
Assistants: Mr Thomas Price & Mr Darren Eaton